Of all the critters in the animal kingdom, human beings were the ones to be gifted a fully functioning upright posture. It is essentially our birthright to connect deeply with the ground while simultaneously lifting and reaching toward the heavens. And nestled in between these two contrasts is the connecting force of gravity. Gravity keeps our bones and joints healthy when we are physically centered and in line with both the ground and sky. But things do happen that may pull us off our healthiest center of gravity. This can happen quickly through trauma, surgery, and injury, or it can happen gradually through repetitive movement, non-movement, and the accumulation of seemingly random or unrelated setbacks (physical, emotional, spiritual) in life.
Connective tissue called “fascia” is a sort of internal scaffolding and webbing that provides structure, protection, and support to all of the muscles, bones, nerves, tendons, joints, and organs of the body. Fascia serves as a communication network for the nervous system and will tighten or contract to help the body react during fight/flight situations or heal from injury. While everything is absolutely connected, there are tracts of fascia that become activated to support particular planes of movement. There is a system set up for muscle contraction (think bending forward) and a system that supports extension (think straightening up from a forward bend). There are also other fascial groupings that support rotation, moving toward the body, and moving away from the body. When all of these systems are balanced and in good communication with each other, gravity helps create the vertical loading and span that is necessary for health. But when one particular movement plane system becomes unbalanced, gravity will consequently become a destructive force.
In the 1920’s, a scientist by the name of Ida Rolf, Ph.D studied the effects of gravity on the body. Her intense study of the biochemical properties of fascia, as well as osteopathy, chiropractic, yoga, and homeopathy served as the backbone for the development of her system of balancing and aligning the body. She called her work Structural Integration (also known as Rolfing SI today). Dr. Rolf said, “Some individuals may perceive their losing fight with gravity as a sharp pain in their back, others as the unflattering contour of their body, others as constant fatigue, yet others as an unrelentingly threatening environment. Those over forty may call it old age. And yet all these signals may be pointing to a single problem so prominent in their own structure, as well as others, that it has been ignored: they are off balance, they are at war with gravity.”
Rolfing SI is a system of bodywork (manual therapy) and somatic movement education that invokes health by reestablishing a nourishing relationship with gravity. One of the best expressions of Rolfing SI is through a series of ten sessions that encourage balance, proper joint loading, and alignment. Each individual session might focus on a particular movement plane, but together, the cumulative effects of ten sessions may reduce the kinetic drag that pulls the body off its plumb line or healthiest center of gravity. The front and back sides of the body become equal and opposite forces. The right side and left sides become better balanced. The legs and feet are able to receive the support of the ground while the upper body can effortlessly lift toward the sky. And finally, the supportive fascial structures for the outside of the body are balanced with those affecting the deep core.
Many folks who journey through the Rolfing SI process find they get back what they did not even realize what was missing. As they free their bodies from old tension and movement patterns that no longer serve them, they may notice they move better, have greater flexibility, and they experience deeper and more restful sleep. They may find they have more energy for their day and added resilience that helps them bounce back more quickly from stress. They notice that they feel younger, more aware, more vibrant, present with their world… and more ALIVE!
Victoria L. Huss, is the Certified Rolfer® and Rolf Movement® Integration Practitioner of New Possibilities Integration LLC in Appleton. She finds joy in helping people unfold, find freedom, and authentically express themselves within the challenges of rigidity, chronic pain, and trauma. For a free consultation or more information, visit www.wisconsinrolfing.com . Rolfing® and Rolfer® are registered trademarks of the Dr. Ida Rolf Institute®.